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Propensity score matching and complex surveys


Researchers are increasingly using complex population-based sample surveys to estimate the effects of treatments, exposures and interventions. In such analyses, statistical methods are essential to minimize the effect of confounding due to measured covariates, as treated subjects frequently differ from control subjects. Methods based on the propensity score are increasingly popular. Minimal research has been conducted on how to implement propensity score matching when using data from complex sample surveys. We used Monte Carlo simulations to examine two critical issues when implementing propensity score matching with such data. First, we examined how the propensity score model should be formulated. We considered three different formulations depending on whether or not a weighted regression model was used to estimate the propensity score and whether or not the survey weights were included in the propensity score model as an additional covariate. Second, we examined whether matched control subjects should retain their natural survey weight or whether they should inherit the survey weight of the treated subject to which they were matched. Our results were inconclusive with respect to which method of estimating the propensity score model was preferable. In general, greater balance in measured baseline covariates and decreased bias was observed when natural retained weights were used compared to when inherited weights were used. We also demonstrated that bootstrap-based methods performed well for estimating the variance of treatment effects when outcomes are binary. We illustrated the application of our methods by using the Canadian Community Health Survey to estimate the effect of educational attainment on lifetime prevalence of mood or anxiety disorders.



Austin PC, Jembere N, Chiu M. Stat Methods Med Res. 2018; 27(4):1240-57. Epub 2016 Jul 26.

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